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You Don’t Mess With The Zohan (12A)

Nicola Mostyn on a hairdressing comedy that you might want to rinse, but not repeat

Published on August 19th 2008.


You Don’t Mess With The Zohan (12A)

So, Adam Sandler has finally broken away from those daft comedies to make a serious drama about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Much like entering a backstreet barbers whose window contains dead flies and pictures of mullets, it’s best to go into You Don’t Mess With The Zohan with low expectations.

Just kidding. The actor is once again reliably ludicrous in this daft comedy, co-written with Robert Smigel and Judd ‘Knocked Up’ Apatow which tells of Israeli commando Zohan (Sandler), who longs to become a hair stylist. After facing his nemesis, Palestinian terrorist The Phantom (John Turturro), Zohan fakes his own death, renames himself Scrappy Coco and lands in America determined to forge a career cutting hair.

But life in New York isn’t without its conflicts. For one thing, with his hairdo straight out of a Paul Mitchell catalogue circa 1987, he can’t get work anywhere except sweeping up hair in a salon owned by beautiful Palestinian Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Also, he has to pretend to be Australian. And then there’s the developer who is trying to stir up trouble between the local immigrants so he can squeeze out their businesses and build a mall.

Much like entering a backstreet barbers whose window contains dead flies and pictures of mullets, it’s best to go into You Don’t Mess With The Zohan with low expectations. That way, you might be pleasantly surprised on leaving to find that the result isn’t a total dog’s dinner.

Because this is a funny film, particularly at first. Adopting the usual Sandler silliness, but with a slightly sharper edge (added, one assumes, by Apatow) it is filled with moments of stupid humour as Zohan ties his enemies into pretzels, attacks a set of dreadlocks with a knife and follows up his blow dries by seducing his mature female clients in the broom cupboard.

There is also the occasional good satirical gag about politics, but here the film does require a double think: one minute you’re watching a scene which lampoons racial stereotyping, the next you’re enduring yet another gag about taxi drivers and hummus. There is way, way too much hummus in this film. Ditto shots of Zohan’s crotch.

Despite the crazy accent and non-stop thrusting, Zohan is a surprisingly likeable character. Funny, too, is Michael (Nick Swardson), Zohan’s geeky American buddy whose mum Zohan immediately seduces, much to her son’s repulsion. It is worth mentioning though that the older woman seduction theme comes across as celebratory, rather than disrespectful, which is gratifying to see (as well as being slightly disturbing).

At its best Zohan is like Crocodile Dundee meets Police Academy meets (in its better moments) Wayne’s World and, with its great, cheesy 1980s soundtrack, the film maintains a steady balance of entertaining daftness and forgiveable stupidity until about two thirds of the way through. Alas, then, the chortles turn to head shakes as the gags go from silly to flabby, the plot (such as it was) collapses and it’s a free for all as Zohan culminates in an extremely lame, hurried message of peace in the Middle East. With hummus jokes, naturally.

6/10

You Don’t Mess With The Zohan is on general release

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